Book Shows Many Paths to “Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings”
Author and parenting expert, Dr. Laura Markham just released another book called Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings. This delightful spinoff builds on the basic parenting strategies from her first book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, and applies it to building a loving relationship with all of your children while helping them create lifelong friendships with one another.
Get In Touch With Your Emotions
Go back to the 1960s when common social themes included peace, love and happiness — without the drugs, of course. While reading Peaceful Parent, Happy Siblings I was constantly reminded of this ’60s vibe with all the mentions of love, hugs and emotions. Come to think of it, I’ve never thought more about emotions in my life until I began reading this book. It seemed like every other page was mentioning a warm fuzzy feeling, laughter, snuggle or hug as the outcome to everything.
Despite all the touchy feely sentiments, I love that Dr. Markham emphasizes the main goal for parenting multiple children as helping your children becoming friends for life. This perspective helps shift your mindset out of the daunting daily routines to the bigger picture of what your children’s relationship with one another will be – even after you’re gone. Bittersweet to think about, right?
Happy Sibling Principles
Let’s dive into some of Markham’s main teachings. First and foremost, we have to be good role models for our children. Her three main principles are to:
- Be in charge of your own emotions: This includes taking lots of deep breaths, pausing before reacting (if it’s not an emergency) and taking care of yourself, especially making sure that your basic needs are met.
- Be connected to your children: Literally spend more quality time with each child, individually. She calls this “preventative maintenance.” Everyone feels the love – and lots of it!
- Be a coach: Think soccer coach in that you don’t punish, but show your excitement when your children do something in need of praise. The children end up wanting to “be like the coach” and because of that, want to please you.
One of the terms most often used throughout the book is empathy – recognizing how another person is feeling and sympathizing with them. Parents are instructed to always use empathy when reacting to their children. Empathizing with your children makes them feel heard and understood, which creates a deeper connection with them. Mutual trust between child and parent is formed and the child is “more likely to accept limits and cooperate.” Good behavior, here we come!
Emotions Run Wild
Never have I ever thought about embracing my childrens’ emotional meltdowns. While some people would call those children drama queens, Markham encourages expressing emotions often. Words like “scheduled tantrums,” “emotional backpack” or “preventative maintenance” were mentioned many times throughout the book. She says this is perfectly healthy. It is key to create a space where children feel heard and safe, or they might bottle up emotions and have them explode later (usually on a sibling). Children need to cry and they will cry less over time. Let’s hope so!
Moving on, I really enjoyed Markham’s explanation of discipline. In today’s world, when we think of the word discipline we think of punishments: spankings, time-outs or being grounded. However, by definition, discipline means to guide. So instead, Markham suggests removing the word discipline from our vocabulary and use the word, coach. This helps shift your mindset to becoming the loving parent that is leading by example and guiding your children to be the best of themselves.
While at first glance you would think a parenting structure without discipline would mean that children would behave like hooligans without rules, Markham talks about setting empathic limits “by reconnecting and acknowledging the child’s point of view.” Remember how I told you it was all about the empathy!?
She then touches on the coaching portion of peaceful parenting. This is the part that I love the most. First, you teach your children how to properly communicate their feelings with one another (your empathy is a huge part of this).
Then, you help them develop problem solving skills to come to a mutual agreement with one another, therefore ending quarrels. Pretty soon, your kids will stop coming to you and they will come up with solutions to their problems on their own. Can’t you just picture how much happier the entire family dynamic would be if there weren’t fights, grudges and constant tattling between your children? That’s the loving family I want!
When it comes to how to speak to children, I have to practice a lot. I have my arsenal full of responses so that I make good decisions when it comes to game time. Markham provides plenty of real-life dialogue as examples of how to become a peaceful parent with your children. I am very appreciative of this. You can really see what peaceful parenting looks like when you read through these examples.
There Is No Perfect Parent
At a certain point in the book, it seemed as if my self-esteem might completely vanish. I felt overwhelmed by trying to achieve a level of motherhood that seemingly rivals 1950s-era Pleasantville. Luckily Markham is quick to remind us “there is no perfect parent, because there are no perfect humans.” We’re doing the hardest job in the world — “we’re raising humans.”
It was a constant up and down flow for me reading this book. I’d get completely pumped (I can do this!) and then everything got a little overwhelming and hard to picture my own children’s responses (yeah, I don’t know about this.). Thankfully, Markham ends the book reassuring you that you definitely shouldn’t be modeling a perfect human, because “he’ll feel worse about himself because he knows he’s not [perfect].”
Markham suggests just taking one thing from the book at a time to start incorporating into your daily life as a parent and role model. This was comforting to read and allowed me to end the book on a high note, ready to begin implementing her strategies in my parenting style.
Something For Everyone
One of the great things about the book is that there’s a section for every parent. Whether you’re just introducing your second child into the family, or you have years of experience with your herd, there are examples and lessons shared.
A lot of the book is geared towards connecting with each child individually, making sure they are continually aware that you love them and that there is always more than enough of your love for them.
It makes perfect sense to me that Markham would emphasize this. Thinking back to when I was growing up with my three sisters, deep down, I’d think the majority of our insecurities (which led to resentment and fighting with one another) had to do with the thoughts in our mind that made us seem like we weren’t loved as much as the other sibling. Peaceful parenting makes for happy siblings.
I love the calmness that the peaceful parent exemplifies. That parent is what I desire to be. All of the psychology behind becoming a peaceful parent makes perfect sense. However, every child is different and sometimes that makes me a little skeptical that this whole thing will really work. But it’s more than worth a try!
Now please excuse me while I go hug my children.